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COLUMN: Do you have a heart like Peter?

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By Steve Gettinger | Pastor of Risen Lord Lutheran Church

Today’s biblical text comes from John 21:1-14:
“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.  ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.”
I am not sure how many know this, but this is the second time Peter has been fishing with Jesus and caught a boatload of fish with Jesus’ help.  
The first time it happened, Peter was not a follower of Jesus.
Jesus got into Peter’s boat to teach the crowed that was pressing in around Him. When He was done teaching the people, Jesus told Peter to launch out into the deep waters. Peter protested because he had just come in from fishing all night and did not catch a thing. Peter reluctantly did what Jesus asked and a miracle happened. He caught a boatload of fish. Peter responded by saying to Jesus, “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man”  
Jesus replied to Peter and said, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:8)
Peter became a Christian that day and responded by laying down his nets and following Jesus.
In our Gospel reading for today, the Apostle John tells us about the second time Jesus helped Peter the fisherman catch some fish.
This fishing trip occurred about three years after the first one. It was a couple of weeks after Jesus had been crucified and had risen from the dead. Peter had been out all night fishing with some of the other disciples and had not caught a thing. As they were coming in from fishing, a man calls out from the shore, “Did you catch any fish?”, to which they reply, “No.”
The man told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat and they would find some. They did it and caught a boatload of fish. It is at that point that one of the disciples figured out that it was no coincidence and that the man on the shore was not just any man, but that it was Jesus and the disciple said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
When Peter heard that, he jumped into the water and swam for the shore to get to Jesus, his risen Lord.
Jesus and Peter had spent about three years together before Jesus was crucified. Peter had learned a lot about himself during that time. Peter learned that he had a bad habit of talking and acting before thinking things through. Peter had given one of the best confessions of the nature of Jesus Christ when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
 But before the day was out, Peter would mess up big time.  Jesus began to tell his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:16-23)
Here is  question for your to consider: What are your minds set on? Are they set on the things of man or on the things of God?
Peter made a promise to Jesus on the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas and afterward Peter broke his promise to Jesus.  Peter promised to be loyal to Jesus no matter what when he said, “Though they all fall away . . . I will never fall away.” 
Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 
Peter replied, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!”  (Matthew 26:33-35)
It didn’t take long for Peter to break his promise to Jesus.
“A servant girl came up to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’” 
But he denied that statement before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 
And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 
And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 
After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 
Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.”
Immediately the rooster crowed and Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.’”  (Matthew 26:69-75)
Peter had a record of blowing it and sinning, didn’t he? Do you have a record of blowing it and sinning? Have you not kept your promises to God? Have you ignored God’s will to do your own?
Peter repented of his sins and Jesus made him an Apostle. Peter went from a spiritual coward to a great leader in the church willing to die for Jesus.
Jesus wants to use us and wants us to be His disciples, in spite of our failures. That is what grace is all about.  Jesus gives us this grace, because He loves us, not because we deserve it.
I started off by telling you about Peter jumping into the sea and swimming to shore to get to Jesus. Peter loved Jesus and longed to be with Him, even if he had to get wet and swim to Jesus. Jesus wants you to throw caution to the wind and dive out of your comfort zone. He wants us to serve him with our lives. My hope is that each of us would have a heart like Peter, including a heart that is thankful for the blessings of God, a heart that desires to serve Jesus and His church and a heart that wants to worship Jesus. Amen.